Hikes & Bikes in Wake County

By Corbie Hill
Photos by Sean Larkin Photography

Jordan lake state recreation area

Jordan lake state recreation area

The Capital Area Greenway’s 117 miles may mostly wind through Raleigh’s city limits, but Wake’s other towns have greenways of their own, too. From its trailhead in New Hill, the American Tobacco Trail wends north, passing access points on Wimberly Road and in Raftery Park on its way toward Durham.

Elsewhere, Apex has a two-mile lakeside trail at Apex Community Park, the two-and-a-half mile Beaver Creek Greenway, and a handful of other short greenway segments and walking trails. Fuquay-Varina’s Carroll Howard Johnson Environmental Education Park features two miles of interpretive walking trails, while there are just shy of two miles of paved and natural trails at Garner’s 64-acre Lake Benson Park.

In Cary, the ambitious Black Creek and White Oak Creek Greenways will eventually clock in at 15 total miles, linking Umstead State Park to the American Tobacco Trail. Its plentiful greenway and trail options include the paved Cary Park Lake Greenway and the Symphony Lake Greenway. In growing Holly Springs, the 90-acre Bass Lake Park has its own mile-long greenway, and in Morrisville, Lake Crabtree’s 15 miles of trails offer respite from the buzzing interstate, technology corridor, and airport just through the trees.

Jordan lake state recreation area

Jordan lake state recreation area

Further from town, Harris Lake County Park boasts 12 miles of trails, while inside the city, the ever-popular William B. Umstead State Park draws foot and bike traffic to its 20 miles of paths. 

Hike (and Bike) Out-of-County

Just west of the Wake/Chatham County line is the nearly 14,000-acre Jordan Lake. On any given warm, sunny weekend – and even some wet and miserable ones – its causeway and surrounding byways like Big Woods Road or Farrington Road are swarmed by cyclists. There are a few trails here, and most of them are good for families: the Talking Tree Trail, down Big Woods, is an accessible (and free) way to introduce young children to walks in the woods. Jordan Lake is a deservedly popular small-boat sailing and paddling spot as well – it is a lake, after all.

For those who want to climb a mountain without driving four hours, Hillsborough has a small one. Occoneechee Mountain rises 350 feet above the Eno River (its summit is 867 feet above sea level), and the trail to the top is quick and easy. The loop trail around the mountain, however, makes for a satisfying afternoon hike.

Jordan lake state recreation area

Jordan lake state recreation area

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail, too, passes through Wake County, with a 69-mile leg paralleling the Neuse River and co-opting three segments of the Capital Greenway Trail System. If you’re headed for the Appalachians, it takes you past Falls Lake; if you’re headed for the Atlantic, it takes you into Johnston County.

More information can be found at mountainstoseatrail.org/segment/11b.

Alternately, the Mountains-to-Sea trail has a paddle route that starts at Falls Lake Dam and follows the Neuse River for 216 miles, ending east of New Bern at the Neusiok Trail. More information can be found at mountainstoseatrail.org.segment/11a-16a.

The Research Triangle Park by Foot (or Bike
(or Running Shoe))

 Busy people know that exercise can be that one more thing on top of an already hectic day: you have your job, your commute, your family, maybe a hobby or two (if you’re lucky) – when’s the workout fit in?

In Research Triangle Park, it can fit in with your workday. Several corporate campuses, such as Fidelity Investments, have walking trails specifically for their employees, while RTP itself maintains hiking spaces for all to enjoy. “In addition to the 18 miles of walking trails, RTP is also home to mountain biking trails,” says Julie Terry, RTP marketing and special projects manager. Appropriately enough, these are named the RTPfit Trails. “Many of them run adjacent to RTP companies, but none go through the private property lines.”

On top of that, the RTP Run Club meets on Thursdays at The Frontier, an RTP coworking space at 800 Park Offices Drive. These runs, which are organized in partnership with Durham/Carrboro Fleet Feet Sports, start at 5:30pm and culminate with a free beer happy hour. No registration is required, but running shoes are certainly a good idea.

On top of that, the Triangle Cricket League holds many of its matches in RTP, while there are also volleyball courts and softball. “It’s very versatile!” says Terry.

Visit rtp.org/programs/rtpfit-trails, rtp.org/program/rtp-run-club, and rtp.org/about-us/programs/rtpfit-sportsleagues. 


The american tobacco trail

The american tobacco trail

Outdoor Adventure

Need adventure tips? Need help finding hiking buddies? The Great Outdoor Provision Co. (locations in Raleigh and Chapel Hill, as well as elsewhere in North Carolina and Virginia) maintains an events calendar featuring everything from hikes to fishing classes to boat demos and river runs. With their GetHiking! program, the company sponsors hiking meetups that range from night hikes to first-aid certification to orienteering lessons. This has grown to nearly 5,000 participants, says Chuck Millsaps, company president and “Minister of Culture.”

The american tobacco trail

The american tobacco trail

“Getting outside with our customers allows us to extend that relationship into the recreational areas that we help to protect for future generations,” he says. “For example, in our support for the Mountains-to-Sea trail we will be donating over $25,000 to support North Carolina’s trail.”

View their calendar at greatoutdoorprovision.com/calendar.com.

On top of that, HikeNC (which is an initiative by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina) is offering free guided hikes statewide until mid-June.

To find dates and locations, visit gohikenc.com.

Bike shops

There are a number of bike shops in Wake county, but these aren’t just places to buy your wheels. They’re also hubs, with regular rides out of the stores or at least staff knowledge of where and when the rides are (and who they’re oriented towards!). All Star Bike Shop in Cary, for one, keeps a calendar of local rides, while cyclists looking for a new ride can take it for a test spin.

Other bike shops include The Bicycle Chain in Apex, Performance Bicycle in Cary and Cycling Spoken Here, also in Cary.